Saturday, 2 May 2015

In Search of the Bluebells

When we decided to make a trip back to the Lake District, my first thoughts with all the sunny weather we'd been having was 'Oh great I'll be able to see the bluebells - fantastic!' We earmarked a sunny day to go and find them and decided on Muncaster Castle, where I know there is usually a fabulous display in the woodlands. 

I happened to check the website the evening before for the opening times and found out that the BBC were filming 'Flog It' there that day - we decided not to go there, as there would be crowds of people descending and I didn't fancy crowds and traffic jams when it was so lovely and sunny.  

Instead I decided on Rannadale as I'd never seen the bluebells there, although we'd visited Crummock Water and Buttermere on many occasions, we'd never been in late April or May. I'd remembered seeing some stunning pictures of it in a magazine last year - a stunning display of bluebells on an unusual site on the edge of a mountain fell with the stunning backdrop of Crummock Water. 

We checked out a map and found a circular walk of a few miles, which started in Buttermere village and took you up over the fells to them, then back by the lake to Buttermere. It stated there were stunning views along the way, so it all sounded perfect. 

The day was beautiful, our drive to Buttermere was amazing - we passed Windermere, Rydal Water, Grassmere, Thirlmere and Bassenthwaite lakes. It was only once we got there that I realised we hadn't brought the map. We decided it couldn't be that difficult to find and knew the way to Crummock Water and double checked in the village we were heading in the right direction. It felt safe enough to do without the map  - the day was clear and sunny and there wasn't much chance of bad weather setting in and with the stunning scenery it didn't really matter if we couldn't find them anyway.

We passed woodland - no sign of any bluebells there - and got to the hillside at Crummock Water and started heading up the pathway and hillside. I was beginning to get hot in the sunshine, but we had plenty of water with us. It was lunch time by now and Rob said we should stop for our picnic - I wanted to keep going a bit longer though as I felt we'd only just arrived. Onwards we went, we knew we were in the right vicinity, but there were still no signs of bluebells - only the Herdwick sheep so far and a few public footpath signs! 

We climbed the fell side higher and higher following the path, perhaps they were in the next vale over the hillside? Eventually it was time for a rest - we found a grassy headland with beautiful views of both Crummock Water and Buttermere - there probably isn't a more idyllic place to sit and have your lunch! 

With only two ways to go - climb higher or scuttle down a rocky pathway back to the road - it seemed the only way was to go up and see what the view was over the next hill - would the bluebells be there? Off we went, me now straggling behind and Rob leading the way. Where were they? Still nowhere in sight. Back down the path and we tried yet another hill. Hot and bothered by now I have to sit on a rock and have a long drink. 

Two hikers pass by, struggling away up the hill, 'You don't realise how out of condition you are until you do something like this,' puffs away one of the ladies. I smile to myself, but just agree, 'Yes, I've given up for now!' 'If she knew what 'condition' I'm in she'd have a fit!' I think quietly to myself. 

We know these bluebells are so near, but don't know which hill or pathway to go up or down next, so we grudgingly admit defeat and head back towards Buttermere ... we've walked miles by this time and most of it up the fells ... it is all down hill now, but I'm flagging and overheating. I've done too much and we have to stop in a shady glade out of the heat of the day while I try and cool. 

We make it back to the road, we hear a helicopter in the distance and then sirens. Two mountain rescue vans come flying down the road towards Buttermere. There must be someone in trouble.  I'm flagging now, but still a mile to go. I'm wondering if I'm being foolish and Rob suggests he carries on and brings the car, but I decide to keep on going. 

 I'm disappointed we didn't find the bluebells, but I cannot complain the journey was wasted, as the views have been amazing and totally breathtaking. I've also managed to achieve something I never could have done before my heart and double lung transplant - walking miles and mostly up hill. It was a challenge, but I did it thanks to my wonderful donor.

We arrive safely back in Buttermere and there is a lovely cafe where walkers and visitors can get refreshments. We enjoy a very welcome cup of tea sitting outside, relaxing and enjoying the late afternoon. I'm relieved I'm back all in one piece and taking a little comfort in the fact there is an ambulance sitting only a few hundred metres away waiting to see if they're needed for the emergency happenning on the fells above Buttermere. 

Refreshed and now revived, we set off on our drive back, we head along the road past Crummock Water and spot a National Trust sign for Rannadale. The path looks flat and I decide I'm up for another short walk to see if the bluebells are in sight - I know it has to be a dawdle type walk and strictly no hills - we wander on...

Then we come upon a sign, 'The bluebells are an historic feature of Rannadale. Please leave for others to enjoy, avoid trampling or picking the blooms.' Haha! At long last!' I shout in delight. But where are they? I remember we are in the north of the country and the north of the Lake District and on the fells too, where the weather is harsh ... the bluebells are there, but you have to look hard. Their foliage is aplenty, but the blooms have yet to come. There are a few sparse blooms scattered about. 

I try and visualise it as I dreamed off - a blue sea vista, sandwiched between the blue of the lake and the starkness of the mountains and fells and sky. 

Two weeks more and they will be splendid... but I will be back in the South by then and still searching! 

Click on the link for the walk we should have followed and to see the bluebells! We did more or less do it and would have seen them looking down from the hill where we had our picnic if they had have been out in full!


  1. How fantastic...that you were in such a lovely place (which I remember well from my short time in Cumbria...) and that you managed so incredibly well...much better than people with a fraction of the medical stuff you`ve been through. I`m sure you`ll see some bluebells soon ! X

  2. Thanks Jane, there are plenty of bluebells out here in Hertfordshire! More pics will follow!